Wednesday 2 November 2011

My SC11 diary 9

I mentioned yesterday about preparation for SC11. I thought today I'd add a few miscellaneous tips I've gathered over the years. In no sensible order or grouping ...

First off, print a copy of your schedule before you travel to Seattle. Yes, I mean print - actual paper. I know we all have our schedule on the various electronic status symbols we carry around with us. But when their batteries decide to have a holiday, or when their internet connection won't play - you'll be glad of that piece of paper. I know it will be out of date within minutes of printing. Write on it - use a pen - that's a thing a bit like a smartphone stylus but ink comes out the end. Even an out of date printout is better than none when you need to check in a hurry where you should be next.

Unless you know Seattle well, print a map of the area around the convention centre - the main hotels etc. Put it in a water-resistant plastic slip (see comment yesterday about the weather). By the end of the SC11 week, you will know your way round perfectly and won't need this. But you might do earlier in the week. Don't rely on your smartphone and Google/Bing/etc maps - see paragraph above!

Hotels (for those of you who stay in them - some of us only get B&B's) - keep an eye out for bargains for SC12 hotels. Yep, as soon as you return from SC11, check out the SC12 city - if you know you will be at SC12 there may be some bargains on hotels (maybe flights too). Does't always work, but in the past I have stayed at some nice hotels at SC for a fraction of the price others paid using this method. Especially valuable in those cities where there are only a few hotels close to the convention center. In this case, securing proximity is as useful as securing a good price.

Food. Pack some snacks (or figure out where to get some quickly and easily on the move). Schedules can get so bad that lunches especially get lost unless they are booked meeting-meals. In that case, extracting your favourite chocolate bar from your pocket/laptop case/backpack can provide an essential energy boost during the day. Don't go overboard though - I am aware of one person who ensure they have a full supply of Coke Zero - even if it means wheeling a dozen bottles around all day in an executive looking travel bag (you know who you are! and PS - thanks for being so generous as to donate some to my thirst on occasions in the past!).

Party-hopping. There are many more evening parties, receptions, dinners, networking events and professional get-togethers than days in the week. So you will have a choice of several every night. Attending more than one per night can be done. In fact it is probably efficient in terms of work networking to plan more than one venue per night to maximise the number of people you meet. But don't attempt so many events per night that the time in each is too short to be worth it (either socially, professionally, or in terms of consumption).

Meetings - get local contact details (cell-phone etc.) for important meetings so you can call ahead when you lose your time-keeping, or your map, or something else comes along to knock your carefully planned schedule into chaos. Likewise, make sure people meeting you know how to call you to grovel that they are running late (or, if it's you that's late, to query where you are and why aren't you there yet).

You will not know everyone who says hello to you. We are all familiar with the experience of being "recognized" by someone, without being able to return the compliment. Because a good proportion of the HPC community will be at SC, this will happen even more at SC. In this case, you can play along, hoping for a clue from the conversation as to who exactly this person is and whether they know you (and whether you want to talk to them!). Or you can bluntly play the "I know too many people" card - "I'm sorry, I'm terrible with faces - and names - and memory - who are you?". Not the ideal approach if you can help it, but is the fastest way of getting the conversation round to meaningful content. Or, if feeling mischievous, stop a random SC11 attendee in the exhibit hall/street, "recognize" them and see how long you can keep it up :-)

Final tip - don't write blogs that are too long - so I'm stopping here!

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